My photography tactics remain pretty much the same, no matter what generation is standing in front of my camera. However, there are certain skills that make photographing teenagers an easier process. In today’s blog post, we’re going to take a trip back to Washington Square Park and I have a set of photo tips for older children that will make your family portrait session a breeze.
A Washington Square Park Family Portrait
It was a pleasure to recently photograph David and Denise, who came to New York from California for their son’s first day of college. For their family photo shoot, we started in Washington Square Park, then walked over to Washington Mews, and then sat briefly on the steps of a brownstone on Washington Square North. We ended the session with a walk down MacDougal Street, and took photos in front of the apartment building where David and Denise lived 20 years ago (before the kids). As with all my family portrait sessions, we started with a family group shot, and then moved to individual shots of the kids alone. I also included a photo of each child with both parents, and then separately with each respective parent.
My Top Photo Tips for Older Children
So, what can you take away from David and Denise’s family portrait session? The bottom line: you have to treat teenagers as adults and respect both their suggestions and their limitations. If a kid doesn’t want to smile, you won’t be getting a smile. Any attempts to push that limit will be met with hard resistance. It was a true pleasure to photograph David and Denise’s kids, but I have photographed older children in the past that simply weren’t comfortable smiling in front of the camera. I always feel it is better to go with the flow and bend your photography style around what your client wants.
You need to be quick, because attention spans are short. Get in, and get the shot quickly is a hard and fast rule for kids of any age. Remember: it only takes a minute for a teenager to whip out his cell phone.
Furthermore, prevent boredom by having a variety of backgrounds and locations on your shot list. My general rule is to spend ten minutes – tops – in any one location. I always make sure I convey the location plan for the day to my clients at the start of their session so that they know where we are going and what they have to look forward to in the next shot.
From about 12 years of age onwards, public embarrassment is a very real fear. To alleviate this fear, I try to make the session as comfortable as possible for every family member. I would never have anyone jump, smile, pose, or otherwise act in a way that they feel is unnatural. I ‘read’ my customers and see where they are in terms of smiling (or not), and then judge how comfortable they are in a public space. I also try to choose locations that offer more privacy, such as a corner of a public park.
To this end, I have my locations planned out well ahead of time with the needs and wants of my clients in mind – and this means taking into consideration the thoughts of everyone who will be photographed. Putting together a Pinterest page or visual mood board with the kids involvement can give them a sense of ownership over the photo shoot. No one can object to photos that they helped to direct. I want the kids to feel like these are their personal photos, and not just a set of snapshots taken for mom and dad.
Along these lines, I always ask the kids directly if they have any special photo requests. I let the child set the scenario and tell me their vision. Social media plays a huge role in everyone’s lives now, so if a kid wants a photo of their own for Instagram, I’m always happy to oblige. (Likewise, I also like to include photos for each individual parent that they can then use for LinkedIn, etc.) In the case of Denise and her family, her daughter specifically wanted photos for her Instagram page that showed her sitting with a profile view. I love a challenge, so I simply added on extra photos of Denise’s daughter after the family group shots were taken.
And finally, when you’re done, you’re done. Nothing more to say here. If one family member doesn’t want to join in the session, then there are other family members to photograph.
Enjoy the photos, and consider booking your holiday portrait now while the weather is sublime. Drop me a line, and let’s chat!
For more in depth details of a typical Washington Square Park family portrait session, check out photos of Mark and his family.
If you would like to see more images from my family portrait portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com